Chris Sutton fully accepts that Paul Pogba hasn’t reproduced his World Cup-winning form at Old Trafford.
And he can understand the frustration of supporters who might have wanted to “throttle” the player at times last season.
Yet, he remains convinced that the Frenchman staying at Manchester United would be a good thing and has no fear that the midfielder, who has done little to dampen the impression that he most definitely wants away, would “down tools” if obliged to stay put.
Sutton, formerly of Chelsea and Celtic, and once England’s most expensive player when he joined Blackburn Rovers from Norwich in 1994 for £5 million, is now a Scottish football analyst for Premier Sports.
But the man who shared the goals with Alan Shearer when Blackburn were Premier League champions, still keeps a close eye on events south of the border and has a straightforward take on the Pogba saga.
“He’s a world-class player so why would you want to get rid of one of your best players?” he says. “Look, has Paul Pogba lived up to expectations in a United shirt? No, he hasn’t. But I can’t see Pogba downing tools. I know there was a lot of stuff levelled at him last season but I don’t see that happening.
“United are a big club and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to keep his best players. It’s as simple as that. It’s a worrying area, that United midfield, so he has to dig his heels in. If he really wanted rid of him, he’d get rid of him, wouldn’t he? You can’t say it’s absolutely not Solskjaer’s decision.
He will have a say in it. And if you’re him, what would you do? If you get £150m for him, who are you going to buy? Who’s going to want to come to United?
“Getting Harry Maguire is a big deal actually. He’s England’s best centre-back and for a club which finished the season in the doldrums and with a lot of question marks over them, I think it’s fair to say that people looking at that would think, ‘why would the top players want to sign for United? Wouldn’t they want to go to City or Liverpool’.
So getting Maguire over the line may have a really positive effect in terms of attracting other top players.
With the Spanish transfer window not closing until September 2, the Pogba saga could have a bit more to run but if he does end up staying at Old Trafford then, in Sutton’s view, the onus will be firmly on him to deliver for his team.
“Players have their heads turned and may want to leave for various reasons but once the window shuts, that’s it then,” he says. “And the player then has a responsibility to knuckle down. These players are earning vast amounts of money so the least they can do is run around.”
But isn’t that precisely what his critics said Pogba didn’t do enough of last season?
“Yeah, but I thought some of the criticism of him was over the top. He certainly didn’t perform in a United shirt to the level which he has for his country. And I think that’s the frustration. But I don’t think it was as bad as a lot of people made out. We all know there is a really top player in there and, if the window shuts, it’s up to him to show that. Am I sure he will show that? No. I’m not. But the fact of the matter is that it will be down to him.
And I always go back to this: if you’re a manager and you want to do well, it’s so cut-throat now that you have to try and keep your best players. Unless you can replace them with better.
“This free rein thing about Pogba, I’m not so sure about. I do think he has a responsibility to be disciplined and I’ve seen him be disciplined in the past. I think he can play in any of the positions. I don’t think he’s an absolute free spirit. But at the World Cup he was phenomenal. And I think that’s what Mourinho dug him out for: he wanted that level of performance that he’d shown at the World Cup. So if you’re a United fan you would be frustrated with that but we can’t sit here and say he’s not a talented player. He is but you want to throttle him and get more out of him.”